Fall may be here, but October is still a pretty great month for grilling. It’s cooler out, so the heat of the grill actually feels nice, and for now we can enjoy a few more weeks of evening light before we turn the clocks back.
For me the best cooking is when a few uncomplicated ingredients come together to make something really special. This flank steak marinade seems so basic – soy sauce, oil and honey, with a bit of vinegar, garlic and black pepper – but a little bath in it makes a richly flavorful steak that is honestly better than most you have in restaurants.
Flank steak is a long, lean cut that marinates beautifully and is intensely flavorful if you treat it right. Don’t cook it past medium, and slice it thinly across the grain of the meat, and you’ll be rewarded with juicy, tender slices of steak. It’s great on the grill – one big cut – and a platter of slices makes for easy, gorgeous serving.
My brother Vic turned me on to this recipe from the reliably fantastic Elise at Simply Recipes, and he’s declared it the only marinade he needs. I wholeheartedly agree. Easy enough for every day, impressive enough for company. What could be better?
I’ve been meaning to tell you guys about this for weeks, but I’ve been in a little fog these days. Blogs are past their prime, and the focus online has moved onto YouTube and larger aggregators of content. So maybe my motivation is somewhat diminished. But mostly I’m just in my head a lot lately, thinking about my own changing world.
My first baby is a high school sophomore. In many ways he’s still a kid – stuff everywhere, eats like a cave man, occasionally stinky. But he’s six feet tall. He is learning how to drive. His wisdom teeth are out.
He is fine. I’m a little bit of a wreck. It’s the usual zoo around here, driving to and from three schools, along with practices, games and activities for four kids, so I don’t have time to dwell on anything. But here and there the thought pops up:
Two years left to be the parent I want him to remember.
No pressure. The truth is I’m so far in the background for him now. It’s my personal parental freak out. Grown-ups still have to grow up too.
Queue up the steak, with a side of red wine. Or maybe vice versa.
I promise you, this is steak to remember. Maybe even steak to make you remember to simply enjoy the moments you have with the ones you love.
How easy is this – our simple marinade, a beautiful flank steak, and a Ziploc bag.
Take a minute to score the meat before marinating (I forgot here and had to pull it out of the marinade). It’s a quick extra step that makes a real difference in both flavor penetration and tenderness. Run the point of a sharp knife lightly across the meat to make shallow diagonal cuts in its surface, drawing a crosshatch pattern. Then pop the steak in a Ziploc bag with the marinade for whatever time you have – an hour or two is fine; overnight is even better.
Sear both sides on high, then move to a cooler part of the grill until desired doneness. Elise has a handy (pun intended) finger press method to test doneness of meat.
Let the meat sit 10 minutes before slicing; this helps keep the juices in during slicing.
Slice against the grain, cutting across the long lines of muscle fiber. Also tilt the knife to cut at a flattish angle through the steak, so that you get nice wide slices for serving.
Serve slices with their juices. You can also simmer the remaining marinade to make a sauce to serve with the steak. Serve with anything – lemony potato salad, orzo with zucchini and feta, kale salad with quinoa and apples, or just a simple salad and freshly baked potato.
Leftovers make killer sandwiches. I sliced some cucumber and quick-pickled grated carrot to make a faux banh mi, and it was not at all authentic but still awfully good.
Grilled Flank Steak with Soy-Honey Marinade
My brother Vic turned me on to this perfect-for-all-occasions flank steak recipe from the reliably fantastic Elise at Simply Recipes. My favorite kind of cooking – a few uncomplicated ingredients combining into a truly exceptional result. Flavorful and tender slices of flank steak dress up any side dish or salad, and leftovers make killer sandwiches.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds flank steak
- Rinse and pat dry the steak. Lay the meat flat on a large cutting board and score the meat (gently running the point of a sharp, thin-bladed knife across the meat to make a shallow cut) in diagonal lines, about an inch apart, all the way across the steak. Score the steak again across the first lines, making a crosshatch pattern. Do this on both sides of the steak.
- Combine the olive oil, soy sauce, honey, vinegar and pepper in a bowl. Place steak in a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade in. Close the bag, squeezing out extra air before you seal it, and turn the bag to make sure meat is fully coated with marinade (you can also marinate the meat in a large bowl or dish). Let the meat marinate in the refrigerator; 2 hours is good and overnight is better.
- Ready the grill with one area for high, direct heat and one for lower, indirect heat. The grill is hot enough when you hold your hand about an inch over the hot side and you can only hold it there for about a second.
- Remove the steak from the marinade and let excess marinade drip off (still leaving a coating of it on; the oil helps keep the steak from sticking to the grill). Place steak on the hot side of the grill. Grill for a couple minutes on each side to get a good sear, then move the steak to the cooler side of the grill, cover and cook a few minutes more until done to your liking.
- Testing for doneness: Steak gets firmer as it cooks. Elise has a handy (pun intended) finger press method to test doneness of meat. Or you can use a good meat thermometer (Elise recommends a Thermapen.) Pull the steak off the grill at 125 to 130°F for rare, 140°F for medium rare, and 150°F for medium. Don’t cook flank steak past medium, or it will be tough eating.
- Rest the steak: When the steak has cooked to your liking, remove from the grill and let it sit for 10 minutes (preferably in a warmish spot, or cover loosely with aluminum foil to help keep it warm). Resting the meat will help it retain its juices during cutting.
- Slice across the grain: the grain is the lines of muscle fibers running across the steak. Flank steak is a very lean cut that will be tough and chewy unless you cut it in a way that breaks up the fibers. Put the steak on a cutting board and use a long, sharp knife (a long serrated bread knife is great) to cut the steak across the grain of the meat, tilting the knife to slice at a flattish diagonal through the steak. This way the slices are wider than if you sliced straight down like bread.
- If you want, you can take the excess marinade and bring it to a boil, simmer for several minutes, and serve with the flank steak. Elise also recommends salsa or horseradish sauce as an alternative.
- I’ve used 1.5 times the marinade for 4 pounds of flank steak, which works well. 1.5x recipe: 1/2 cup olive oil,
3 cloves garlic, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup honey, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper.
- Vinegar substitute: substitute any other vinegar you have (white, apple cider, white wine, balsamic). The vinegar is just a flavor accent and also serves as meat tenderizer.
- You can skip scoring the meat, and the steak will still taste great. But the scoring is quick and does help with both flavor penetration and tenderness.
- Leftovers make great sandwiches. Banh mi is a fun alternative with a fresh baguette and quick-pickled veg.
Here’s the link to a printable version.